[highlight color=”black”]FOODIE FRIDAY[/highlight]
Guest Post by Mark Michael Stephens
Last August, I was fortunate to spend five days in Amsterdam. After roaming three hours in bliss at the Van Gogh Museum, I stumbled upon a pancake house with outdoor seating facing two adjoining canals with boats traveling in different directions. The ornate décor had red and gold walls with a smell of sugar and batter in the open air. The atmosphere reminded me of a carnival where outlandish music plays. I peeked my head just to see if there was a carousel lurking around.
I expected a large stack with butter and syrup as any American would. It arrived within five minutes as one pancake. There’s a catch though: the size. Dutch pancakes are enormous, thinner than American pancakes, but thicker than a crepe. Butter is absent. It is simply a light cake, ever so crispy on the sides, almost rolled over, but moist in the center. It is sifted with powdered sugar and topped with whipped cream and berries. A syrup container usually sits nearby, but hardly ever used. It is not maple though. It’s better.
When I took the first bite, my eyes opened wider. Love and wonderment entered my heart. It was light and not too sweet. I couldn’t get enough. I had hoped no one was staring. I saw people sitting across from the bench I was on, drinking beer, speaking in different languages and laughing, oblivious to my sheer enjoyment. I turned to the right where the inside of the actual restaurant lied. These pancakes were made on a large iron in an open space.
The Ancient Greeks were the first to introduce this dish to the world. Their pancakes were made with wheat flour, olive oil, curdled milk, and honey — a staple of daily life that soon segued to other countries. The Dutch took their take on it by adopting a simple approach with just eggs and flour and touch of butter. The less-is-more kind of mentality. I still don’t know how they do it, but they got it down pat.
Every day after that, I tried to find one similar to this. I would take pancake breaks in between museum stops and shopping. I’d sit down with confidence and accepted that I could never go back to the boring pancakes here in the states.
So here’s what you do. Don’t order it at your hotel. The place I stayed at was four stars, in a brand new structure, and they didn’t even have a suitable pancake/waffle option. Visit the places throughout the city where they just sell Dutch pancakes. You’ll see them towards the Museum Quarter, known as the Oud Zuid (the old south district). Even places like the Jordaan neighborhood are ideal for these treats, as well as people watching. And, whatever you do, don’t go near the Red Light District for food. It is full of tourist traps that offer no culinary value.
It would be criminal to travel to Amsterdam and not partake in this experience as least once. You can certainly try the syrup I was referring to, but use a small amount. Also, make sure it comes with whipped cream. And, just to spice it up, have a Pilsner. It will enhance the flavor.
All photos courtesy of Mark Michael Stephens